TIF possible for downtown Riverside

Trustees also considering Special Service Area

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By BOB UPHUES

Riverside trustees indicated recently that they might favor establishing a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district and a Special Service Area in order for the village to realize its goal of downtown economic revitalization.

At a meeting on Sept. 20 of the Transit Oriented Development Study stakeholders, a clear majority of village trustees, all but one of whom were present in the audience, agreed that exploring the creation of a downtown TIF district would be key in order to implement projects that would address traffic circulation, parking and help make possible such large-scale projects, such as the construction of a community center.

A TIF district can help local governments to revitalize areas by freezing property assessments within the district for up to 23 years for every taxing body except the village. As property values rise due to redevelopment, the village can capture that new tax revenue and use it to fund further improvements within the TIF district. All other taxing bodies, such as schools, libraries, etc., can only tax properties within the TIF on the assessment set when the TIF was formed.

According to Richard Wilson, an urban planner for the consulting company hired by the village to lead the study, a TIF district could bring in between $15-$19 million for development in downtown Riverside by 2029.

"I think we should move as quickly as possible," said Trustee Thomas Shields, who is the village board's finance chairman, in a separate interview. "There are a lot of questions yet, but from what I know about TIFs and how successful they've been, this is definitely the way to go."

However, the timing of creating a TIF district may also be a critical factor, since the village will be able to capture fewer dollars for the TIF if the district is created after redevelopment begins and assessments begin to climb. With two significant development proposals on the table for the Henninger Pharmacy property and the Arcade building, trustees may push for the creation of a TIF soon. Creating the TIF district could take a minimum of six months.

"If we're going to do it, this is the appropriate time to do it," Shields said. "The momentum now has started. How quickly we move forward is one of the big questions."

Trustees Candice Grace and William Scanlon said the idea of creating a TIF is intriguing because past economic revitalization studies have simply withered because they lacked a way to implement them.

"The village has had numerous vision studies done over the past two or three decades, only little was accomplished because there wasn't an implementation step included," Scanlon said. "What I was voting for was for our consultants to put the TIF possibility in the final report along with enough information so we can make a reasoned vote on the issue."

In agreeing with Scanlon, Grace added that she would also like to get input from taxing bodies, like local school districts, who would not benefit from any new revenue within the TIF. Grace is a former Riverside School District 96 board president. Grace said she'd also like to get information on how many TIFs have failed and why.

"If the answers come back positive, I think I'd strongly support it," Grace said.

Trustees would like to have a finished copy of the Transit Oriented Development Study in hand before making such decisions, but the completed study is not scheduled to be delivered to the board until mid-December.

The earliest the board would begin discussions about the possibility of creating a TIF would be no earlier than November, according to Village Manager Kathleen Rush, when she will have a draft copy of the final report.

"It is urgent, but Riverside is a community that's very deliberate, and will want to make sure that it's the right decision before they proceed," she said.

In addition, trustees showed support for creating a downtown Special Service Area, imposing a separate tax that could fund marketing efforts, special events, landscape improvements and facade improvements, among other things, to help spur development. Both the TIF and SSA could operate concurrently. While the money generated from an SSA would be able to address smaller scale improvements, the TIF could give the village the ability to work on large scale capital projects.

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